48 Hours in – Seattle
Starbucks, Frasier, Nirvana, the Space Needle – Seattle is a place that is famous in many respects, but remains somewhat off the radar from a travel perspective for most Brits. The city itself is a vibrant mix of art, music, sport and ample amounts of green space. When factoring in the vast coastline and beautiful Washington state mountains, Seattle is a must visit.
I flew direct from London with British Airways in First (details below) via Avios redemption. I arrived late on Friday evening, with my first night was spent at the Airport Marriott. After waking early I picked up a rental car back at the airport and drove the approx. 40 miles north to Paine Field, home of the Boeing Factory Tour. I know, I know, you may think this sounds really boring but I promise you even if you haven’t got an interest in aviation it’s well worth a visit. It takes two hours and the entrance fee is $25.
After a brief stop at the Seattle Premium Outlets (US road trip essential No.1) and lunch at Whole Foods (US road trip essential No.2) I ventured further inland towards the mountains. First stop was Snoqualmie Falls – an impressive waterfall close to the main highway (I-90) and walking to the bottom of the falls is a must do to truly grasp the power and scale. The town of Snoqualmie lies a further 3 miles east – a small picturesque country town that provides a great photographic backdrop but also a perfect stop for coffee (I tried The Bindlestick, 8010 Railway Ave).
Being someone that will always take an opportunity to spend time in the mountains, I travelled further east to Snoqualmie Pass – the highest point on the I-90 across Washington State. Not only did this provide a glimpse of snow, I was also able to stop at Dru Bru, a microbrewery at the base of the ‘Summit at Snoqualmie’ ski resort. This was a great place to spend time, watch some sport and sample the superb beers brewed in-house (try the ‘Sticke Alt’).
After heading back into Downtown, I checked in at the Pan Pacific. Slightly north of central downtown, it provides a great base to explore the city by foot. The main shopping district is about a 10 minute walk, whilst the Space Needle is a similar distance in the opposite direction. After a long day exploring a new city, a local sports bar is a great place to grab a quick dinner whilst sampling some local beers. Thanks to the incredibly friendly Seattleites, The Yard House was also a great place to meet locals too – together with over 100 beers on tap and an extensive menu – highly recommended.
The next day was all about exploring downtown and what better place to start than Pike Place Market. Pike Place almost perfectly mirrors Seattle as a whole – liberal, eclectic and unique. The main public market contains stalls ranging from fresh fish to produce intertwined with numerous independent bakeries and eateries – it really is a must do, despite being a tourist hotspot at certain times of day (particularly the world’s first Starbucks). Talking of Starbucks, I walked Pike Avenue to visit the Starbucks Reserve and Roastery – a very different take on the standard concept we all know, the menu revolved around rare and small batch roasts along with unique and exclusive combinations – the coffee and food were excellent and well worth taking time out to visit.
Another popular Seattle pastime is supporting the Seahawks, the beloved local NFL team. Although tickets can be hard to come by and expensive, the atmosphere at Century Link Field is quite unlike anything I’ve experienced before and despite defeat, it was still a great experience. Nearby to the stadium (Seattle’s baseball team, the Mariners, also play next door) is the neighbourhood of Pioneer square – once the heart of the city, it now provides a low rise, edgier and somewhat cooler alternative to its glitzier downtown alternatives. Here you’ll find a range of culinary delights – ranging from pre-game bars to fine dining – local bakeries and independent shops, it’s a great place to spend a couple of hours exploring (together with a visit to one of Seattle’s famous local coffee shops, of course).
The key to fully experiencing a city within 48 hours is making the most of the time and for my final morning I was up early for a walk north of downtown to Kerry Park. Not only does this provide possibly the best view of the city, it’s also a great way to sample life outside of downtown in one of the city’s most exclusive neighbourhoods, Queen Anne. The early alarm to watch the sunrise over Seattle was great– seeing the city come to life from a lofty neighbourhood park was also a unique experience. After walking back into downtown I stopped for breakfast at Scout PNW near Pike Place – a great space that provided a small yet appealing breakfast menu – the french toast with roasted figs and lemon ricotta was as good as it sounds.
Soon after this I left downtown and made my way to the airport. Airport transfers from downtown are a breeze due to the light rail system, which at $3 one way is a great value option.
Despite my high expectations coming into the trip, Seattle exceeded them. Even the inclement weather didn’t stop me experiencing so many different things that Seattle has to offer – whether that be mountains, shopping, restaurants or sports. I loved my time in Seattle – it reminded very much of a city in the Northeast such as Boston with a more laidback atmosphere that only the West Coast can provide. The locals were incredibly friendly and rightly proud of their city, a city that I would not hesitate to go back to. Although perhaps in the summer next time..
- I flew with British Airways non-stop (2 flights per day), but Virgin Atlantic and Norwegian also fly direct from London
- I paid for my flight using Avios, redeeming in First for 85,000 points (one way, off peak), however redemptions in economy can be had for as low as 16,250 avios one way
- Return direct flights start at approximately £410 for BA/Virgin – but expect to pay around £800 to £1,000 during summer months
- I stayed at the Pan Pacific and paid approximate $200 per night, but rates are higher during summer months